Baking Bread Is a Labor of Love

Reader Contribution by Carol Winn
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Like-minded. There is much joy in meeting new people and finding out through conversation that you are like-minded in things you love or love to do. Through conversation, experiences are shared and future mistakes may even be avoided by what you learn from your new friends. Unproductive paths might now be avoided because of what you have learned. But then again, that path may still look inviting now that you are aware of its destination. I especially enjoy hearing the stories of those “younger than me” who are putting in a garden for the first time or are so excited about putting in this year’s garden. My daughters and I had the pleasure of having lunch with one of their friends the other day. He was enthusiastic and so willing to share his abundant knowledge of gardening. It made me hopeful for the future and I now have a new, like-minded friend.  

Michigan Maple Syrup

Another like-minded friend has family that produces maple syrup at Mari-Way Farm in Nashville, MI which is attached to MOO-Ville Dairy Creamery. Nashville is located on the southwest side of the mitten. This friend is my maple syrup supplier and I am her supplier of honey, which makes a very sweet friendship. Both of us have placed our orders from this year’s crop. If you have never had “real” maple syrup, you have missed out. First of all, vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of maple syrup is indescribably delicious. Coffee drinkers that take a little sugar in their coffee would be highly encouraged to substitute a teaspoon of this delicacy in place of their regular sweetener. It is an experiment worth trying. But my favorite way to use this gift from the Maple tree is baked in Michigan Maple Bread. The original recipe is from King Arthur Flour and they named it Vermont Maple Bread. But since I am a proud Michigander and have my own maple syrup supplier, I have changed the name of my bread to Michigan Maple Bread. It makes a delicious sandwich bread and when it is baking or toasting, the house smells like cinnamon and maple syrup. Eating what is in season is such a wise thing to do, so this last month rhubarb and strawberries have been popular at our house. One of the sweet things about maple syrup, is that it is a year-long food to enjoy because it’s always in-season.

The recipe is quite simple. The original recipe calls for maple sugar. King Arthur sells maple sugar, but as of yet, I have not splurged and bought any. It is on my “if not now, when?” list of things to do. I mix 1/4 cup of organic sugar and 1/4 cup of maple syrup to make my maple flavored sugar.    

Michigan Maple Bread

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup maple flavored sugar
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or a little more if you like)
2 cups boiling water
1 tbsp yeast
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose bread flour

In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, maple sugar, honey, butter, salt, and cinnamon. Slowly add the boiling water so it doesn’t splatter back at you. Mix well. Let cool to lukewarm, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the yeast and stir. I let it sit for a minute so I can watch the yeast do its magic. Then add the flours a little at a time and stir to form a rough dough. Knead about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and satiny. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. Since the dough is warm to begin with (from the boiling water), it should become quite puffy. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased bread pans. Cover the pans with the lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise until they have crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 60 to 90 minutes.

Bake the loaves in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 35 to 40 minutes. The original recipe says to tent them lightly with aluminum foil after 25 minutes, to prevent over browning. I have never done this, but I will the next time I bake this bread. Somehow I missed that step and now I am really wondering what a difference it makes in the texture and crust. After I try a recipe and I think it is a keeper, I usually don’t reread the whole recipe. That is a habit that I might want to break. Remove the loaves from the oven when they are golden brown. Turn the loaves out onto a rack to cool. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days, freeze for longer storage.

A Labor of Love

Baking bread is truly a labor of love — love of bread and love of nurturing. Maybe there is a like-minded, or a not-so-like-minded friend who has blessed your life with some much needed wisdom or great idea. Why not bake some of this bread and share one of the loaves with them? You might find that you can always agree on one thing: sharing bread is definitely a true labor of love.

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